Mateo, J.M. & Holmes, W.G. 1997. Development of alarm-call response behaviour in juvenile Belding's ground squirrels: The role of dams. Animal Behaviour , 54, 509-524.
Experiences with adult conspecifics can influence the ontogeny of species-typical behaviours in naive young of many species. Two processes of influence, direct and indirect, are proposed to describe the effect of adult behaviours on juvenile development. In Belding's ground squirrels, Spermophilus beldingi, exposure to adults experienced with responding to alarm calls may affect how juveniles respond to calls and/or the rate at which juveniles acquire adult-like responses to calls. Because dams and their juvenile offspring interact extensively during early development, the influence of dams on the ontogeny of juvenile alarm-call responses was investigated by conducting playbacks of alarm calls and non-alarm calls to captive ground squirrels. Juveniles were more likely to respond to auditory stimuli if their dam responded, but the responses of unrelated adult females did not influence juveniles. A dam's presence at the time of a playback had no consistent effect, however, on the type of initial response made by her juvenile, its response duration or the vigilance of its postures. The permanent absence of adult models (dams) after weaning appeared to delay the rate at which juveniles developed a discrimination between alarm calls and non-alarm calls, but had no long-term influence on juveniles' expression of responses. Thus, dams indirectly influenced juvenile response development by acting as models of species-typical responses. The outcome of dams' influence was facilitative rather than inductive, because exposure to dams affected the rate of response development but was not necessary for juveniles to acquire alarm-call responses.